By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer
With more than a half-dozen items on the Greene County Board of Supervisors’ agenda for last Tuesday night’s meeting, including three public hearings, the size of the audience may not have been a surprise. But what was surprising was the hottest topic and most impassioned plea from the majority in attendance: give our county park a comfort station.
County residents’ plea emerged from the scheduled public hearing to review and adopt the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) recently submitted by the Planning Commission. Although supervisors intended to receive feedback on the plan, having 16 people speak in favor of this one requested item from County Parks & Recreation Department may have seemed unusual, especially since this was simply a CIP review and did not entail any budget discussion. Residents, however, seemed determined to get their message across early, prior to the upcoming budget hearings.
Speaking as a private citizen, Bill Martin, who also serves on the Planning Commission, addressed the board about his concern for the lack of restroom facilities and running water at the county park. As someone who has worked in public health in developing countries for 2 ½ decades, Martin said he has witnessed firsthand the critical health issues related to proper water and sanitation facilities. He noted “the strong level of support behind this project” and said “the time has come to fund this when the appropriations process begins.”
Bob Burkholder, a retiree who serves on the Parks and Recreation Committee, said such a restroom facility would cost the county “little money to purchase” and agreed it is time the county put money into this, noting that many residents have donated time and money to improving the park: the Ruritans built and donated the pavilion; former supervisor Jeri Allen got the state grant to get the road paved; Sheriff Scott Haas got the Army Corps of Engineers to volunteer hours for landscaping and park beautification; even the Girl Scouts raised $1,000 specifically to help build a comfort station.
From Ruritans to retirees, from coaches to Scout leaders to a high school student—a variety of people urged the supervisors to consider the health issues involved when hundreds of children and adults use the two port-a-johns on site and have no running water available for washing hands or drinking during the busy spring and summer weekends. One resident came armed with facts and figures concerning the increase in the number of children in the county, the increased number of people using the park regularly, and the countless volunteer hours that illustrate residents’ commitment to the park’s existence.
After closing the public hearing, Greene County Planning Director Bart Svoboda noted that the county CIP serves two purposes: it’s the basis on which the county sets its cash proffers, and it gives the county a long-range look at what its “real” capital needs are. Supervisors agreed that although the CIP process has improved, “we have to be more disciplined in how we approach requests,” Chairman Steve Catalano (at-large) said. He suggested cataloging overall operational needs to better comprehend the county’s needs year by year. Supervisor Jim Frydl (Ruckersville) also noted that it’s important to know what existing assets in county departments will need replacing over time in order to plan for the cost of their replacement as well.
The two additional public hearings went much more smoothly with little to no public input. Supervisors approved rezoning acreage at Daniels Park I and Daniels Park II, located off Rte. 33 east, which had been zoned as residential R-1 property, to residential R-2, and the board also approved granting a special use permit with the submitted proffers to these same two locations to basically bring into compliance the two existing mobile home parks and existing multi-family dwelling on the properties. The intention is to keep the property as a trailer park; the rezoning does not change any boundaries.
The remainder of the full agenda included a presentation by Greene County Library Branch Manager Ginny Reese on the new downloadable service for audio and e-books and a proclamation of the county’s support of “The Big Read” program as part of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system. The board also passed a resolution to authorize submission of the loan application to Virginia Public School Authority to finance the school’s athletic/performing arts facilities capital improvement project, with an agreement to revisit the amount of the loan at the March 22 meeting.
Supervisor Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville) reported that the Central Virginia Regional jail has experienced a 1.89 percent increase in its budget, and Greene County’s share of that budget is $647,000. Last year Greene County contributed $543,000 to the jail’s budget. Chairman Catalano noted that only three years ago, the county was not required to allocate any money to the jail—a sign of the state’s increasing requirements for financial contributions from the counties.
Pauline Hovey is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org